How do physicians feel about their compensation?

Five physician leaders joined Becker's to discuss how satisfied they are with their current pay and what they'd like to see change.  

Question: How satisfied with your income are you currently? What changes do you hope to see related to your income?

Editor's note: These responses were edited lightly for clarity and length. 

Michael Gannon, MD. Regional Medical Director of Atlantic Medical Group Primary Care (Martinsville, N.J.):  I am moderately satisfied with my income. Many of my primary care colleagues would echo that sentiment. Our compensation is based solely on patient-facing time. While technology and artificial intelligence have improved patient care in many aspects, they also have significantly increased our workload and administrative burden outside of seeing patients. As we strive to reduce this often overwhelming workload, we will see a direct correlation with an increase in compensation satisfaction. My hope is that soon our compensation will be more tied to patient outcomes and cost reduction through clinical excellence and best practices.

Melvin Freeman, MD. Former Ophthalmology Specialist in Yarrow Point, Wash.: I am a retired ophthalmologist, who practiced in a multispecialty group setting, at the Seattle, Wash.-based Virginia Mason Medical Center from 1969 to 1995. Upon retirement from clinical practice, I continued my involvement with medicine and health care through the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason. In retirement, my institution supported me in my volunteer endeavors, including resident teaching, presidencies of three smaller national/international medical organizations, committee work in accredited medical education and international simulation institute accreditation. In addition, with my institute's support, I was able to serve as an elected public official of my town, president of my religious organization, and published as editor/author of a dozen books for ophthalmology residents and Allied Health Personnel.

I was compensated appropriately for my patient care and recognized for my dedication to the medical and civil community. This appropriate compensation and volunteer support were adequate for my lifestyle and family responsibilities. Though active in my decades of involvement in healthcare, I was challenged and supported and did not feel burned out.

Michael Gomez, MD. Natal Intensive Care Unit Medical Director at Pediatrix Medical Group (Orlando, Fla.): While hoping for an increase, in practical terms, I see future income as flat to mildly lower given the available payment models, workforce, workload assumed by workforce, and money in the system to pay for what we do.  While we earn better than most pediatric specialists, all physician payments are going to continue to be under tremendous pressure by forces that are hard to resist.  Consolidation, commoditization and technology will be used to lower the cost as medicine transitions away from a skill-based guild to something else.

James Leavitt, MD. Director of Clinical Quality and Outcomes of Gastro Health (Miami): I am quite satisfied with my current income. According to the latest reports, the average gastroenterologist earns around $500,000 per year. Factors such as geographic location can lead to variations. Cost of living considerations can also affect satisfaction with compensation. While many physicians may believe that compensation does not match the level of effort and the expertise required, physicians have steady and significant earning potential fairly resistant to outside economic factors. 

As far as what changes I would like to see related to my income, obviously, I would prefer to see steady incremental increases. I would also like to see a diversification in my revenue sources. And, of course, while being a physician is an important part of my life, I would like to make sure that no matter what I am earning, it is not the only part of my life.

Mark Thoma, MD. Anesthesiologist with The Permanente Medical Group (San Francisco): I think my total compensation is reasonable for my training, years of experience and local cost of living. The clinician shortages have accelerated this in the past years, but those dollars will be hard for the industry to sustain. That said, I still feel like I am working a lot harder for that money with reimbursements down and that also concerns me going forward. 


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